Audit Yourself

January 16th 2014

 
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As a regular reader of this blog, chances are you have experienced a few things that are truly a big deal: illness, divorce, death, job loss and the like. Nowhere in that list will we ever see these: a co-worker wrote me a mean-spirited emailmy boss displayed his typical sense of superiority today, or I had to clean the office coffee pot again

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So why do we allow such pettiness to charge us up? And what can we do to respond more productively?

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Maybe we permit the pettiness because it feels so very real in the moment, where the bigger life issues seem more distant. Maybe we feel we must react to the smaller issues because we (usually mistakenly) think we have the skills to do so. Or maybe we watch too much reality television, where all issues rise to the nuclear level.

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In her book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron examines emotional reactions and offers great advice about what we can do. She asks us to consider a reasonable approach: what if we simply decided that whatever we are going through just wasn’t a big deal? What if we neither suppressed our emotions nor reacted to them, but studied them instead? We could then look at the emotions more objectively, take some time away from the current petty drama, and perhaps return with a more productive response...or perhaps no response at all. I don’t know about you, but I relax just thinking about the possibilities.

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Daily working life is filled with opportunities for conflict, embarrassment, hurt feelings, and negativity. Each of these kills creativity, innovation, and productivity, so it’s smart to find an effective way to deal with emotions that arise at the office. 

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The way that makes most sense to me is to stop reacting to our emotions so quickly. Slow the whole process down by mentally stepping outside ourselves to examine the emotion we’re feeling, spend a little time with that emotion internally, and describe it to ourselves simply as interesting. And then let it go. Don’t feed the emotion; study it and release it.

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If we all started refusing to get charged up over life’s daily insults, it’s quite possible that conflicts would decrease and cultures would strengthen. Strong cultures mean less turnover, more teamwork, and greater collective and individual performance. And that is a very big deal, indeed.

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